By DIANE R. CHODAN
OBSERVER Staff Writer
When I was a child, selecting a Christmas present for my dad was not difficult, neither was it very exciting. My sister and I would simply talk to Mom and ask her what we should get.
OBSERVER Photo by Hilary Diodato
A clever wrap job can help fool even the most discerning recipient.
Dad had established preferences. Dress shirts were always blue or white and never button-down. They were meant to wear with one of his suits, gray or navy blue. He had handkerchiefs, bandanna-type for his job at the steel plant or white for dress. He wore ties that couldn't be too loud, all-cotton socks for work, brown slippers of a certain type, and a black cardigan sweater. He liked chocolate-covered cherries, cream drops and maple candy.
He liked tools and fishing equipment, but preferred to pick these things out himself.
Each year, Mom would tell us what Dad could use.
"No, don't buy him a blue shirt," she'd say, "He already has two still not opened in the drawer."
My older sister and I would wrap presents together. Gift bags hadn't been invented yet.
It was our family custom to unwrap presents carefully so that the paper could be reused. Instead of tossing wrapping paper away, we would carefully fold any that could be salvaged and put it into a shopping bag that went into the attic. We retrieved the bag each Christmas season. We'd trim the bad part of the paper and each year the paper would be used on progressively smaller packages. Only when we couldn't find a piece of paper big enough for a box would we use new wrapping paper.
My sister, who was older, would figure out what paper fitted what box, and do the fitting and folding. As she held the folds, I would tape them down carefully so that the paper could be reused if the tape were carefully cut.
We opened our presents on Christmas Eve. My family sorted the presents so each person had his or her own small pile. It was usually my job to read the tags and hand out the presents.
Each person unwrapped all of his or her presents, and I as the youngest learned patience because I had to wait. Because of the careful way we unwrapped presents and the need to see each one, this took time.
One year, my father unwrapped his presents in a way that bothered me. He took his time, looked at each box, shook it carefully or felt it, looked again and then announced, "This is a tie. This is my box of candy. These are my new socks."
He wasn't unhappy; in fact I remember his smile being very gentle as he nicely thanked everyone for his gifts and assured us he was a very happy man. He knew what he wanted and needed; his tastes were simple enough; and he apparently was satisfied.
Still, I remembered how predictable his gifts were. It bothered me that he was 100 percent correct.
The next year, my sister and I decided to "fix" him. I really don't remember whether my sister or I suggested what we should do, but we had a lot of fun coming up with the specifics. A pair of socks went into a tie box. Another went into a tube from wrapping paper. His tie went into a square box. His box of candy was wrapped, placed into a bigger box that was wrapped and then a bigger box that was wrapped.
That Christmas was one of my favorites. He started with the tie box and was wrong. He didn't get a single present correct. Instead of a gentle smile, he roared with laughter.
That was the beginning of a new attitude for giving gifts to my dad. I wanted to make him laugh or give him something he wasn't expecting.
After my last year in college, I gave him the textbook I had used for my course in conservation. When I took that course, I realized that I knew a good deal about the subject because of him. He read the entire book and we later talked about it.
He also could take a joke. One year, I gave him a tie that was decorated like a fish. He probably wore it once, but he did laugh. One year I gave him a soap from Avon that was shaped in the form of a male chauvinist pig. (We argued all the time about women's rights. My father loved to argue). He never used the soap but it stayed on the corner of the bathroom counter for years.
As time went on and I had a daughter, we often talked about what gift would make Grandpa laugh. One year my daughter gave him clippings from her haircut to replace his thinning hair. Another year, we bought a hat that said, "This takes the place of the hair I used to have."
Hearing my father laugh put the joy into Joyous Christmas.
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